Does it ever seem like everyone around you is achieving huge milestones, registering one major life event after another? Weddings. New babies. Job promotions. Upgraded homes. It can start to feel like you’re being somehow left behind as the late bloomer of the group.
It’s not uncommon — or abnormal — to want an achievement or two for yourself. In fact, most people compare themselves to their friends, neighbors and coworkers at some point in life. If feeling left behind begins to take away from your appreciation of your own success and where you are in your own journey, these strategies can help you regain perspective.
1. Let Yourself off the Hook
The first step to coping with thoughts of being left behind is to acknowledge those feelings for what they are not. That twinge you feel when you find out that your friend landed their dream job is more likely to be disappointment that you’re not enjoying the same success rather than jealousy. Strong disappointment is benign, not malevolent. Disappointment, however, often feels just like jealousy, which leads to guilt, starting a negative cycle you can — and should — break early on. Usually, just knowing the difference can relieve those feelings of guilt from your already-burdened mind.
2. Deal With What’s Left
When you define and strip away what you’re not feeling, what are you left with? What, if not jealousy, does your disappointment lead to? Is it frustration? Insecurity? Discouragement? Stress? Anxiety? Urgency? Once you’ve defined exactly what you’re feeling, lean on your tribe. Talk with someone in your support network or take advantage of your Employee Assistance Program and meet with a professional counselor.
3. Invest in Yourself
Next, it’s time to work on those things that are within your sphere of influence. Ten years ago, the National Institutes of Health confirmed what the self-help publishing industry has known for decades: When you invest in yourself, your performance improves. Give yourself time to work on achieving your goals, whether that means hitting the library to learn more about starting a business or reading up on first-time home ownership. If you’re after a promotion at work, you could try listening to productivity podcasts on your commute, or studying for a trade certification to enhance your skill set. Or consider stepping out of your comfort zone and enrolling in an improv class, where you can learn to think on your feet … and maybe meet someone special who appreciates your wit and shares your life goals.
4. Ask Around
As you learn, don’t be afraid to ask successful contacts for advice. Respectfully ask for a few minutes to talk about how they achieved what they did and what intel they’d give in retrospect. Hindsight really is 20/20, so take advantage of what others have learned on their road to victory. You’ll be surprised at what successful friends are willing to share, and how enlightening their lessons learned can be for you. Resolve to do the same and pay it forward when, in the future, you find yourself in a similarly advantageous position.
5. Foster Compassion
Learn to have compassion for yourself and others around you. Discover how to take pride in what you’ve achieved outside of anyone else’s shadow. Volunteer regularly with those less fortunate in order to keep a healthy perspective. Combat the temptation to let discouragement morph into jealousy by learning to love where you are now. Cultivating understanding for both yourself and others will ensure you don’t miss out on the best things in life that are available now. Remember, the only true tragedy of not yet having that spouse or dream job will be the day you get there and look back with regret for not having enjoyed today’s unique gifts.
Emotions can be tricky, especially when you’re comparing your status with your peers’. Assuage your guilt by appreciating that your feelings are natural and not unkind, then focus on getting yourself where you want to be by seeking out advice from those who are already there and treating yourself with the compassion you deserve.